'Agniveer' scheme brought to benefit business house: Rahul Gandhi

BIHAR: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday charged the Narendra Modi government with having brought the 'Agniveer' scheme in order to spend the defence budget for the benefit of a big business house, instead of emoluments paid to the soldiers.

Gandhi made the allegation at Mohania in Kaimur district of Bihar, bordering Uttar Pradesh, a region from where youngsters are known to enrol in the armed forces on a large scale.

The region was a witness to large-scale protests against the Agniveer scheme two years ago.

"An Agniveer will not get a salary and pension on par with a regular army soldier nor will he get access to the canteen,'' alleged Gandhi.

The government had launched the 'Agnipath' scheme on June 15, 2022 to recruit aspirants in 'below the officer's rank' cadre of the three services for a period of four years as 'Agniveers'. The former Congress president claimed, ''This is because the Modi government does not want to spend the defence budget on salary and other perks of soldiers. It wants to spend the amount for the benefit of a business house.'' Earlier in the day, Gandhi said his party will accept long-pending demands of farmers in the country and ensure a legal guarantee to minimum support price (MSP) of crops if the INDIA bloc comes to power after the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Addressing the 'Kisan Nyay Panchayat', a gathering of farmers, in Bihar's Rohtas, as part of his 'Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra', he claimed that ''cultivators are not getting the remunerative prices for their crops''.

''If the INDIA bloc comes to power after the general elections, we will give a legal guarantee to MSP. Whenever farmers have asked for something from the Congress, it has been given to them. Be it loan waiver or MSP, we have always protected the interests of cultivators and will do so in future,'' Gandhi said.

His comment comes at a time when Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a farmers' body, called for 'Bharat Bandh' on Friday to press the BJP-led central government to accept cultivators' demands, including a legal guarantee of minimum support price for crops.

Farmers from Punjab began their 'Delhi Chalo' march on Tuesday but were stopped by security personnel at the Shambhu and Khanauri border points between Delhi and Haryana.

The protesting farmers have been camping at the border points ever since. Their agitation entered the fourth day on Friday.

Addressing the rally at Mohania in Kaimur, Gandhi also said, ''If you look at the coverage in the media, you find little mention of farmers and other people and opposition leaders like us. You will find Modi sharing space with his friends.'' The Congress leader also said, ''Sometimes, you may also find Nitish Kumar beside the Prime Minister.'' The remark, aimed at the Bihar chief minister who recently dumped the opposition bloc INDIA and returned to the BJP-led coalition, evoked peals of laughter from the crowds.


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